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Duly Noted

Tuesday, Oct 9, 2012, 1:31 pm

Treme Recap, Season 3, Episode 3: Me Donkey Want Water

By Lindsay Beyerstein

Me donkey want water,
We on a journey,
He don't walk straight
And that is because
He's so underweight

In this episode, several characters embark on new ventures. Some proceed tentatively, and some launch themselves with gusto.

Chef Janette moves back to New Orleans to help a local restaurant tycoon launch a high-concept eatery. Tim, the tycoon, has been wooing her for some time, promising state-of-the-art equipment, creative control, and free hand with food costs. Tim made his fortune with lowest-common-denominator restaurants, but he swears he wants to make the new place into a foodie mecca.

As Janette says, it all sounds too good to be true. The writers are hinting that her misgiving is well-founded. Her line cook roommates, and her sous-chef lover Jacques express misgivings about the plan. Jacques asks her point blank whether she trusts her partner and Janette dodges the question. If industry veterans who love Janette are uneasy, maybe there’s something wrong.

On the other hand, the terms of the deal seem very favorable. Janette isn't being asked to invest any of her own money and her New York mentor is supportive, so she's not burning any bridges by going. The disconnect between the deal as we understand it and everyone's reaction to the deal heightens the suspense. If there’s a catch, we’re going to have to tune in next week to find out what it is.

Annie shakes hands with a diabolical-looking Texan in a swanky restaurant. Her newly retained agent hands her a “standard contract," which she sets aside unread, and (as yet) unsigned.

Davis decides to record a sampler as a tribute to New Orleans musicians cheated by industry sharks back in the day, so they can finally get paid for their work. Getting ripped off was an accepted fact of life for musicians. The more things change, the more they stay the same....

Meanwhile, Nelson Hidalgo appears to have stumbled on a legitimate business model in spite of himself. His strategy, which he calls “the long con” is to do a good job refurbishing storm-damaged homes for New Orleans Affordable Housing (NOAH) money, so that his company will get more contracts when the federal aid comes in. When pressed, Nelson’s forced to admit that it’s not a con per se, it’s just long.

Nelson's “honest work for honest pay” scheme is so crazy, it just might work, at least until something better comes along. He can see that the NOAH scam is rapidly unraveling (as it did in real life) as local residents become suspicious.

After an extended courtship Sonny wins over Linh’s ultra-protective father, who finally leaves Linh and Sonny alone to consummate their relationship. Has Sonny pulled off a long con, or a non-con? He's won Linh's heart and her father's trust, but maybe he's not such a catch. He excels at male bonding over pho, karaoke, and the blues, but he's still a recovering addict who abused his last girlfriend. There's no indication that Linh and her family know anything about Sonny's past.

Antoine goes on tour with Tab Benoit and, predictably, cheats on Desiree. It can scarcely be called a con at this point. Benoit is well known for his version of Me Donkey Want Water, hence the name of this week's episode.

Toni launches a full frontal assault on the NOPD after her young associate witnesses an act of police brutality by the officer she suspects of shooting an innocent person after Katrina. As the beating victim lies helpless on the pavement, a bystander observes that the police are the city's real crime problem. This plot arc elegantly links post-storm atrocities and day-to-day police brutality.

Toni knows she's upping the ante by taking out an ad in a local paper asking other victims of this officer to come forward, but she's a woman with little to lose. What coud they do to her that's worse than what she's already been through?

Big Chief Lambreux is diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and given a 50/50 chance of survival. Will he be able to march with the Indians on Mardi Gras?

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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